Say you can handle about 25 hours of work per week.
But your best client suddenly needs your help with a major product launch. And two new clients just hired you to work on some big projects.
Oh, boy! When it rains, it pours.
We’re now looking at WAY more than 25 hours of billable time for the next few weeks. And you have no idea how you’ll get it all done.
Great problem to have, right? 😉
If you’ve been freelancing for some time, you’ve probably experienced this challenge at some point. You know how difficult this situation can be.
It’s fun … until it isn’t.
My guest in this week’s podcast, Atlanta-based writer Don Sadler, is very familiar with this scenario.
In this interview, he explains what he does when he’s booked solid … and how he retains his sanity and his health.
If you’re nowhere near experiencing that problem in your business, I still encourage you to listen. Because you’ll learn how to get to this level and what to do once that happens.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
Tell us about yourself
Don Sadler has been working as a full-time freelance writing professional for over nine years. Before freelancing, he spent the first 24 years of his career learning the craft of marketing writing (mostly in the financial services industry), for a number of custom publishers.
When the financial crisis hit in 2009, he was laid off from his publishing job. He could see the layoff coming, so he prepared by taking on freelance jobs while working full-time. When he was eventually laid off, he was able to get his freelancing business up and running quickly.
Learn more about Don Sadler’s path to freelancing in podcast episode #048.
What does being “booked solid” mean to you?
Don considers himself booked solid when he’s working 8:30-5:00, five days a week.
He keeps a time sheet of his hours, differentiating between billable and non-billable tasks. He uses this sheet to track how much time it’s taking him to earn his income.
What’s a good ratio of billable/non-billable hours for you?
Don aims for a 80/20 split: 80 percent on billable and 20 percent on non-billable.
How are you able to stay booked solid?
1. Experience. Don has over 30 years of experience in marketing writing.
2. Niche industry experience. Most of Don’s experience is in the financial services industry. Generally, the more specialized your niche—and the more in demand it is—the better. Technical niches are also good.
3. SEO. About six or seven years ago, Don did a lot of SEO work on his website. It brought in a stream of leads at the time and continues to do so today.
How do you qualify your prospects?
Over the years, Don’s become skilled at qualifying prospects. He can separate “tire kickers” from quality prospects. The tire kickers are usually obvious.
To distinguish good prospects from weak prospects, you have to ask good questions. Usually, after having a conversation with prospects, it will become apparent to both Don and the prospect if they’re not a good fit.
If a prospect offers you a project that you can’t accommodate due to timing, let them know when you will have time available. Then it’s up to them whether to wait or go elsewhere.
There’s usually more room to negotiate this kind of situation with existing clients. They already know your skills and abilities and are often more willing to be flexible.
How have you been able to make time for more billable work?
Keeping regular office hours helps. Don worked 8:30 to 5:00 in the corporate world. When he started freelancing, he continued with that schedule.
Don also makes a point of tracking his time carefully.
In terms of scheduling, how do you plan your day?
There’s a rhythm to Don’s workday. His day starts with a bit of web surfing and checking sports websites. By 9:00 or 9:15 he’s deep into his work.
He will take a few short breaks throughout the day, usually two or three minutes to check social media and give his brain a rest.
He’ll take a 30- to 60-minute lunch break. Then he’ll work hard through most of the afternoon. On some days, he’ll finish at 5:00 to hit the gym.
After 6:00, he’s definitely done for the day.
What do you do to stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy?
Exercise, hobbies and having outside interests are all important. You need work-life balance.
Don attends to his spiritual side by attending church regularly and participating in Bible studies with friends.
How do you handle clients who come to you with projects when you’re booked solid?
Don’s has some flexibility with his deadlines. He can sometimes move things around to accommodate new projects from current clients. It’s rare that he has to turn things down because can’t work them into his schedule.
Many writers use being booked solid as an opportunity to raise their fees. Have you tried this approach?
Unless it’s an extreme situation, Don doesn’t raise rates for existing clients. The higher rate isn’t worth the risk of upsetting the apple cart.
As long as he’s being reasonably compensated, he’ll let things continue as they are, especially if the work is recurring.
When quoting projects for new clients, he will take into account how busy he is at the time.
If taking on a new client is going to stretch is resources, he’ll make it worth his while.
Your biggest improvements in income won’t come from raising your rates with existing clients. It will come from getting higher rates with new clients.
If you can’t take on a project, will you refer to other writers?
He has on occasion. But he doesn’t know many writers who do the same kind of writing that he does with a similar skill set. His pool of referral candidates is small.
Any parting thoughts?
Any successful freelancer will hit a point where he/she is overwhelmed. There will be weeks when you just have to bear down and get through it. You might end up working a few weekends or evenings.
In the corporate world, you sometimes have to put in long hours. At least as a freelancer, you’re the beneficiary of your hard work.
Where can listeners learn more about you?
Don’s website: donsadlerwriter.com
By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:
1. Grab a free copy of my training class for writers who are new to freelancing.
It’s called “The 3 Magic Levers: How to Get Your Writing Business Off the Ground and Land Your First Paying Client.” — Click Here
2. Download a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.
You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here
3. Join our “Get Better Clients Academy”
You’ll get a personalized action plan based on where you are today in your business. Plus all the tools, scripts, checklists, cheat sheets and templates you’ll need to escape feast-or-famine … grow your income … and land clients who love and respect you. — Click Here
4. Get your website DONE!
If you’ve been struggling to get your website done … or if you’re not happy with what you’ve got today… let my team and I build you a beautiful website for your writing business. We’ll do all the hard work! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org … put “WEBSITE” in the subject line … and I’ll reply with the details.